Are you aware of the Riot (Damages) Act 1886?

11 Aug 2011

Unless you have recently been on holiday on the moon you won’t have failed to hear all about the damage and loss caused by the events in London and other cities over recent days.


Initial estimates of the loss have been put at over £100Million by the insurance industry and according to some assessments this could top £200Million once everything settles down again.


At this point it is relevant to consider a little known piece of legislation by the name of the Riot (Damages) Act 1886.  Under this Act householders and businesses who were not insured could claim against the English police authorities for the costs of loss and damage.  Insurers might also seek to recoup losses that they suffer as a result of the riots.  Effectively the Act makes police authorities liable for damage to buildings and their contents if a riot occurs under the Public Order Act, even if there has been no negligence on the part of the police.


The Association of Police Authorities has previously asked that this piece of legislation be repealed.  However, at this time it remains in place.  Under the Act a potential claimant must notify their local authority of a claim within 14 days.


In recent days the Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that compensation will be available and indeed he has gone further and indicated that the standard 14 day period in which people can submit claims has been extended to 42 days.  The Association of Police Authorities has described the Riot Act as an “out of date law”.  The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said that the Riot Act has worked well for 125 years.


“Whatever the right and wrongs”, says Kelvin Farmaner, Partner in the Insurance Litigation Team at Trethowans LLP, “it is important for all those affected by the riots to be aware of the Riot (Damages) Act 1886.”